Scottish “junior” football, for the benefit of Sassenachs and those on foreign shores, is contested between consenting adults in public – a bit like English “non league” only with Irn Bru and imprecations. Child’s play it’s not.
So why, as another Northern League season prepares to kick off, are we drawn north of the border?
Yesterday’s blog recalled that, at the start of 1984-85, Willington were managed first by Alan Durban – between the top jobs at Sunderland and Cardiff City – and then by Big Malcolm Allison, complete with fedora.
They were succeeded as joint managers by Alan Murray and Eddie Kyle, Eddie subsequently to be Alan’s assistant manager at Darlington and Hartlepool and Alan to be Graeme Souness’s No 2 at Southampton and Newcastle United.
Like Big Mal, both were also stalwarts of the Saturday night football scene around Yarm’s pubs, Alan usually recovering in time to play for the KGB next morning. The KGB were Kirklevington Great Britain.
It’s Eddie Kyle, top bloke, to whom today’s blog particularly refers. Eddie’s a legend in Scottish junior football – or, at least, he is in Ayrshire.
Cumnock Juniors and Auchinleck Talbot play in former mining villages a mile-and-a-half apart. The rivalry between them makes that between – say – Whitley Bay and North Shields resemble a crib two-hander at the Over 60s Club.
On Valentine’s Day 1976, no notion of love in the air, they were drawn together in the quarter-final of the Scottish Junior Cup, the first time that the two sides had met at that stage for 32 years.
The ground capacity was 6,000, the crowd estimated at 12,000 – or 40 fewer once the polis had transported the worst of them to the lock-up.
The Nock – as in hard Nock – won 2-1. Eddie, who commuted from Darlington, scored both. “You wouldn’t say there was a rivalry, it was more like hatred,” he once said.
We’d bumped into him at Billingham Synthonia, where still he’s familiar, in 2008 – coincidentally the day of another meeting between the auld Ayrshire enemies. Eddie had been invited but, remembering what they say about discretion and valour, declined.
“I’d have quite enjoyed it, but I fear they have long memories in Auchinleck,” he said.
“It gets a bit mental,” said the Daily Record, lerss equiovocally.
They’ve long memories in Cumnock, too. A lady on the club website still uses the handle “Eddie Kyle’s love child” – he hasn’t told the wife. Getting on half a century later, there are those in Auchinleck who still know him as Eddie Bastard Kyle.